“I need to keep pushing myself, so that when I die I will leave a mark ” – Jokate Mwegelo

Jokate Mwegelo is a former beauty pageant winner, who branched out into acting and later launched a lifestyle brand, Kidoti, to meet the beauty needs of women across Africa. In recognition of her success in the media and fashion industries, Jokate has won several awards and is on the path to achieve even more. Be inspired by her interview with us.

Can you briefly describe yourself, and tell us what you do?
I’m super-ambitious. I dream very big and I love to follow through with whatever I set my mind on. I am also very kind and compassionate. I feel that is what drives my constant need to connect with people and look for solutions that would help make better our society, nation and world generally. I feel our existence is inter-dependent and giving back should be a necessity. I’m currently running a lifestyle brand, which deals with the designing and manufacturing of various lifestyle items to primarily suit the African market and 90 per cent of our items go by the brand name Kidoti. I also produce and host TV shows and am currently working on various community campaigns, such as our recently launched ‘BE KIDOTIFIED’ campaign, which is set to inspire a new generation of daring youths, who value their talents and work hard to become better.

You became famous, when you won the 2006 Miss Tanzania beauty contest. What was the experience like?
It was hectic. I was younger, but I had a very clear picture of what I wanted out of the experience. For me, it was more like a platform to further my other ambitions, which were bigger. The experience took me out of my comfort zone. It also brought about many firsts in my life: first time I entered the club, first time I got into the media and much more. It was exciting for me because prior to the contest, I led a very sheltered and limited life.

Why did you transition into acting?
I’ve always loved acting, plus the industry was blossoming at the time I started to act. We were one of the first young well known females to get approached to be on what we call bongo movies back home. It was funny, because initially, most of the producers and directors would just use us to sell copies. We would be on the cover, but when you watch the movie, it would contain very little scenes with us in it. Later on, I found more control and freedom in the projects I engaged in; the roles needed to be meaningful and challenging.

As an actress and TV personality, what would you say your greatest achievement has been?
I would say being able to meet a lot of people. I find no greater reward than the exchange of cultures and energy and being able to do what you love the most on international platforms, and for people to acknowledge and appreciate your craft.

What do you think about the way women are generally stereotyped in the media?
I hate it, but again, every other thing is stereotyped. It’s like what the media choses to represent sticks in people’s minds and becomes the norm. We don’t have as much diversity in media. I love seeing women like Lupita being icons of beauty in a world, where beauty is defined by having a certain type of breast size or hair length or waist size. These are all great, but there is so much more that women can and are offering off and on the screen.

Do you think the media is a male-dominated world?
I feel the media and most especially business is very male dominated. Women are mostly set to be on screens as pretty faces, but not much as decision makers or owners of media. I’m glad more leading ladies are coming forth in media and business. It’s easy for men to give each other money, but when a female comes with a solid business proposal, so many doubts cloud her ambitions. Men need to believe women are so much more and they need to respect our being. We need to co-exist.

You’ve won several awards. Can you tell us what drives you to succeed?
My mother and God are the two most important elements that drive my zeal to become more. My mum, because she is just perfection— she raised us to become what we are today and expects us to do better than she ever did. I need to pay back by being great and striving to achieve just that. God, because that’s the source of my life, my talent – all of it wasn’t given to me to go to waste. I need to keep pushing myself so that when I die, I will leave a mark.

Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how you handled them…
I seriously do not have an account of the challenges I have faced. They are plenty, but I tend to not focus on them. I’m always with the ‘on to the next’ kind of attitude. I might cry, but then I brush it off. I want to remember the times I thrived, as it makes me realise my strength and the fact that I am capable of so much more than what I am going through at that particular moment.

Tell us about your fashion label, Kidoti. Why did you decide to launch it?
I launched Kidoti, because I love creating stuff. But again, I always wished to have a brand that every household would enjoy and feel empowered by. Plus, I felt there was so much potential in the market for beauty and fashion brands to do better than they currently do. Fashion and beauty is what I breathe, so it was easy for me to start with that industry, too.

How has the brand been received by potential clients?
It has been received very well in the market. Every item we roll out embodies a philosophy that is more than just a product we are selling. There is a story behind it that is empowering. For instance, the slogan that went with our very first items was ‘nywele mmoja style kibao,’ which means, one pack of hair, but from it you can get a variety of hairstyles. This was targeted at our younger clientele and our message was that they could feel beautiful and empowered through our items, but they do not have to be under stress to break the bank unnecessarily. At the same time, we were also sending a message to young women to live within their means. On top of that, the quality of our products is simply great and they are available at amazing price points.

What has your experience, as an entrepreneur been like?
It has been quite interesting. We are a startup, so most times, the issue we have is that we want to grow so fast, but finances limit us. However, I must say I enjoy the process. We all need to appreciate the process, as it makes us; it prepares us for greater things. So, I’m being extremely patient, hopeful and strategic about it all.

As an entrepreneur, what business lessons have you learnt?
I have learnt that it is never personal. Let other people flourish, even your competitors, because you might need them in the future, as weird as that sounds. Success in your business comes down to having an amazing team that shares the same enthusiasm about the company with you. This includes sharing the same enthusiasm about the company’s ethos. Being organised and disciplined is everything. It is also important to create strategic partnerships— network, network, network and be informed.

You live a very busy life. How do you relax?
I relax when I sleep. I’m currently on a roll and I don’t really know what relaxing entails. That is the sad truth.

Where do you see the Kidoti brand in five years?
I see it in every single market area in sub-Saharan Africa.

What advice do you have for women wanting to start a business in the fashion industry?
I say go for it. It won’t be easy; nothing great ever is, so go for it. Network constantly; look for financial advice and facilities that will help your business grow. Get mentors in the field, learn from people that have worked in the industry and do better. Listen more, reflect and learn.

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Jokate MwegeloKidoti
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